We have here an image of the Hohenzollernmodell's main-mast fighting-top photographed from the rear looking forward. My descriptions are in German, "Want" is the German word for shroud, "Seitentakel" is the hanger of the winding tackles. We have nine shrouds on each side. Starting on the port-side shrouds 1 and 2 are a pair; starboard-side 1 and 2 also: Port-side 3 and 4 are a pair and starboard 3 and 4 also etc,. etc. Shrouds 9 port and stb are also one pair, these are the last to be rigged. In this Image one can see that shrouds 9 are to topmost and also the rearmost shrouds. Directly underneath that are shrouds 7 and 8 on the starboard side. If this is the case then the first shrouds to be rigged must have been port-side 1 and 2. However, in all books I have that deal with 17th century rigging, nomatter which Nation, is said that the first to be installed were on the starboard side.
Here's a close-up which might help identify details:
Is it known in which order the shrouds of Vasa were rigged? Looking at the two Images it is almost certain to me, that they started rigging the shrouds on the port-side first. If the last pair to be rigged were 7 and 8 before 9 on the starboard side then it only makes sense that the first to be rigged were 1 and 2 port-side.
Unfortunately, the shrouds did not survive, and there is no clear wear evidence at the masthead or in the top to suggest in what order the shrouds were set up. I would not worry about the order too much. A lot of the "rules" that governed rigging by the later 18th and 19th centuries, and which most researcher use to extrapolate backwards in time, were still being formulated in the 17th century. In the surviving material from Vasa, we see some things that follow the later rules (tablings and roping on the sails for example) and other things that do not (cringles and seizings on the sails, for example). It makes no functional difference at all whether the first pair of shrouds over the masthead are port or starboard, so I can imagine that there is some real-world variation. Important to keep in mind here that the people writing the rules are not the people doing the actual work.
By the way, it is just a top, not a "fighting top." That is a later term.
Thanks for that Fred. Another thing I noticed is that the foremost pair of foremast and mainmast shrouds were protected by leather sleeves, most likely against damage from the sails rubbing against them.
Here's a close-up. You can even see the seams:
On the foremast shrouds these sleeves spanned roughly the space between seven ratlines which on the model was about 14cm which equates to 3m in full-size. The mainmast lower shrouds had these sleeves too, apparently none of the upper mast shrouds had them.
I tried this out on my model, though my sewing isn't high class, this was only an experiment.
This kind of leather chafing gear is seen in a number of places on ships, even today. It was commonly rigged on anchor cables at the hawsehole, for example. An alternative treatment for the forwardmost shroud could be to serve it fully. We have a few pieces of such leather chafing gear among the Vasa finds, although most are small and were found loose.
Leather chafing gear cannot be continuous, since cowhides are limited in size, and is made up of segments. I would be curious to know if there had been chafing gear in the hole in the stem head - I would expect so.
None of the rope we have, which includes fragments of both standing and running rigging, has very much tar on it. There is good evidence that most of it was tarred "in the yarn" (individual yarns were tarred before being laid into rope), but no evidence for heavy external applications of tar. Tar survives very well on other parts of the ship, so it does not appear to be a preservation issue. Vasa was new, so one might expect relatively little surface tar. As the ship aged, it would have been necessary to tar the standing rigging, on could expect.
Leather chafing gear cannot be continuous, since cowhides are limited in size, and is made up of segments. I would be curious to know if there had been chafing gear in the hole in the stem head - I would expect so. ...
This is hard to say Fred. Here we have the mainstay's chafing on the port side (yellow arrows) and on the starboard side (red arrow), note the stiches are facing outwards. The stay is probably covered with leather to protect it from being damaged by the "Twille" a huge Y-shaped timber supporting the bowsprit.
And here the starboard side. We can only see parts of the chafing, indicated here with arrows.
Here's a blown up detail of the above image. What I believe might be part of the stay is indicated with arrows. Somehow when the JPEG is blown up on my monitor I can see what might be stitches which are hardly visible here.
If this is the case then here too the stitches might be facing outwards, which could indicate that the starboard and port stay chafing are actually one piece. I don't know about the hole itself but I guess it wasn't a simple hole drilled through the stem head, obviously it was shaped somewhat as not to damage the stay that passed through here.
We have here port side looking at the foremast. The shroud to the left can be seen also covered with leather chafing. The stitches face towards the bow.
However, we have here the starboard side foremast shroud (to the right) and here we can see the stitches face aft.
Weren't the riggers bothered to always have the stitches facing in the same direction? Did it matter? Were they were sewn to the shrouds after the shroudes were rigged or before? Obviously the shrouds must have been served BEFORE they were rigged, so the riggers knew how long the sections had to be that were to be served, so perhaps they also knew to which sections the chafing was to be sewn before the shrouds were rigged.
The rule with the stitching on leather chafing gear is simple - it faces away from the area of greatest wear, since if were on the wearing face, the stitching would chafe through quickly. The mainstay chafing gear follows this rule pretty well, since I think that the leather sleeve in this area is specifically to protect the stay collar where it goes through the hole in the stem head or bowsprit knee (twille).
On a shroud, the main wear comes on the forward side of the forwardmost shroud, so the seam would face aft.
Shrouds and other lines are served in the rigging loft, before they are taken to the ship, but chafing gear is determined by where a line contacts another, and with a few exceptions is difficult to predict. It is more often rigged on the ship.
In many cases, the people who make up the rigging in the loft (the riggers) are not the people who rig the ship. The ship is usually rigged by its crew, sometimes with assistance from the rigging loft if alterations have to be made, etc. A ship could be completely downrigged and rerigged at sea, except for pulling out the lower masts, so the skills needed for setting up the rigging were present in the crew. Serving on shrouds, etc. was part of the manufacturing process, while adding chafing gear was part of the rigging process. Inventories of boatswain's stores (the boatswain/bosun was responsible for the maintenance of rigging) issued to ships normally include a number of hides for making semi-permanent chafing gear.